Monday, October 11, 2010

Die Hard: See, Even Girls Like It

I've talked about a wide range of favorite movies here this year.  Being a girl, some may have surprised you (like "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid"), some not so much (four words - "The Sound of Music").  Brace yourself cause you're about to get the biggest shock yet.  Today I'm talking about..."Die Hard"!

I know, I know, I'm a girl!  But like I've said a thousand times, if the movie's good, no matter the genre, I'll like it.  And "Die Hard" totally falls into that mindset. It's one of the best action films ever made (as probably ever guy reading this right now will testify).  Well, gentlemen, guess what?  There are girls who like the film too.  I'm not sure what it is that puts this film onto my all-time favorites list over all the other action films that make me say "Ok, that was fun...back to romances."  It could be the solid, seemingly simple script.  Maybe because it's so much fun to watch with my dad.  Or possibly it's my unabashed love of Alan Rickman, which started when I first saw him in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," yelling "I'll cut your heart out with a spoon!" to Kevin Costner.  (Later conversation: "Why a spoon, cousin?  Why not a knife or a fork?"  "Because it's dull, you twit.  It'll hurt more."...teehee, love it.)

Now, I know I don't have to tell you guys the plot, but for all those women out there reading this, here you go.  A New York cop arrives in Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and kids and heads straight for the wife's office from the airport, where a Christmas party is going on.  However, thieves pretending to be terrorists bust into the office building and hold everyone hostage, except the cop.  Now it's up to him and only him to stop them and save everyone, including his wife.  Released back in 1988, it stars Bruce Willis as the cop John McClane, Alan Rickman as the thief Hans Gruber, and Bonnie Bedelia as the estranged wife Holly.

This was THE film that made Bruce Willis an action star.  At the time, he was mainly a funny man, starring alongside Cybill Shepherd in "Moonlighting" since 1985.  And he wasn't the first choice to play McClane either.  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson were all offered the part but each one turned it down.  Willis had to really work his schedule out to shoot "Die Hard" too.  He was filming "Moonlighting" at the same time, during the day.  When he finished there, he would head over to Fox and film "Die Hard" through the night.  He did have a little time off during filming, though, to elope to Vegas and marry Demi Moore.

This was a big film for Alan Rickman too.  Mainly a British stage star at the time, he made his Broadway debut in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" as Vicomte de Valmont in 1987 (for which he was nominated for a Tony).  "Die Hard" director John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver went to see a matinee performance of "Liaisons" one day, and from that, they knew they had found their villain Hans.  Since Rickman was not offered the role of Valmont in the film version of the play, he accepted "Die Hard" instead, thus making his feature film debut.  And what a debut!  He created one of the most famous villains in film history (#46 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Heros & Villains list).

Even though you may think, "It's only an action film.  They wrote it just so they could blow things up," "Die Hard" is actually based on a book - Nothing Last Forever by Roderick Thorp, a sequel to his book The Detective.  The first book had already been made into a film in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra.  Thorp wrote the second book with the thought of it being adapted into a sequel to the film "The Detective."  However, Sinatra turned down the sequel, and the book was shelved until the 80s.  They made the lead character younger, changed the daughter being held hostage to his wife, and changed the corporation, but most of the film follows the book.  One major change McTiernan made, though, was switching the villains terrorists to thieves, to make the film less heavy.  He felt the audience would enjoy the thought of all that money more than some deep political beliefs.

When 20th Century Fox did greenlight "Die Hard," they had the perfect location for the film to use already, the newly constructed Fox Plaza building in Century City.  All exterior shots and some interior shots were filmed at the building, which even itself had some floors unfinished at the time.  Much was still filmed on sound stages, for, as you well know, there are a lot of stunts in this film.  Willis didn't do all his own stunts, though.  (Sorry, guys.)  For example, his stunt double did the jump in the elevator shaft, which he actually missed.  McTiernan liked his mistake so much anyway that he edited it look like McClane misses the first vent, then grabs the second.  Rickman did have to do part of his one major stunt himself.  He was a bit nervous though, so he made McTiernan do it first.

So, guys (and maybe some gals like me), get your high body count fix this week with "Die Hard."  (I know I don't have to tell any of you gentlemen twice.)  It's on any number of television channels everyday, but it's also currently an instant streamer on Netflix.  Have a great week, everyone!

(Post-tidbit:  Ever notice that you never really see Hans' face whenever he fires a gun.  That's because Alan Rickman couldn't help flinching at the sound and flash of the guns.)


  1. Sadly, McTiernan is likely going to prison for knowingly allowing private investigator Anthony Pellicano to wiretap people during investigations on his behalf.

  2. Oh, is that what he did? I noticed the headlines recently about him being arrested, but I didn't read the details. That's too bad.